There are actually two types of child custody that can be handed out to the parents in two different ways. The two main forms of child custody are physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody deals with the residence of the child. If a parent has physical custody, it means that the parent has the right to have the child live with him or her. Legal custody, meanwhile, deals with the decision-making of a parent for their child. More clearly, this means that a parent with legal custody can make decisions on behalf of their child relating to where they go to school, what doctor they see, what religion they will practice, and other similar life circumstances.
With these two forms of custody, they can awarded in two distinct ways: either sole custody can be given to one parent, or joint custody can be given to the parents.
Joint custody is not commonly awarded by a judge in the case of physical custody unless the parents live near each other. Usually joint physical custody is awarded when the divorcing parents agree that it is in the child's best interests and they have the means to make such an arrangement work.
It is important to realize that joint custody arrangements are complex and can be difficult to fulfill at times. However, there are significant benefits to having such an arrangement, such as having guaranteed time with your child. In addition, the shared parenting time can help the parents properly balance their lives. Ultimately, you should make sure you fully understand your joint custody arrangement by talking with your attorney.
Source: FindLaw, "The Various Types of Child Custody," Accessed Aug. 2, 2016